Episode 135: Adam Smyer’s Anti-Racist Translation Guide

Adam Smyer. Photo by Ed Newman.

Adam Smyer joins us on the GrottoPod this week to talk about his new book, You Can Keep That To Yourself: A Comprehensive List of What Not to Say to Black People, for Well-Intentioned People of Pallor. It’s a pocket-sized translation guide designed to keep white folks out of trouble, and it couldn’t be more timely. Smyer is also the author of the novel Knucklehead, which was the sole title shortlisted for the 2018 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. He’s an attorney, martial artist, and self-described “mediocre bass player” who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and cats. You Can Keep That To Yourself is out now.

Episode 134: Vanessa Hua, “VIP Tutoring”

Vanessa Hua

Award-winning writer Vanessa Hua joins the GrottoPod summer reading series today to share a taste of her short story “VIP Tutoring” from her newly reissued collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities. Hua is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the author of A River of Stars. A National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, she has also received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, among others. She has filed stories from China, Burma, South Korea, Panama, and Ecuador, and her work appeared in the New York Times, Washington PostThe Atlantic, and elsewhere.

Episode 131: A.H. Kim’s ‘A Good Family’

Today on the GrottoPod we’re kicking off our summer reading series, bringing you readings from Writers Grotto members. Today we’re featuring Ann Kim, who reads from her brand-new novel, A Good Family, available now. Ann Kim (writing as A.H. Kim) was born in South Korea and immigrated to Ohio as a toddler. She went to Harvard College and Berkeley Law School and is a practicing attorney. She is the proud mother of two sons, cancer survivor, community volunteer, and member of the Writers Grotto. She lives in San Francisco with her husband. A Good Family is her first published novel.

Episode 127: Beth Lisick and ‘Edie on the Green Screen’

Beth Lisick’s debut novel, Edie on the Green Screen, is about a Bay Area Gen-X rebel, an “It Girl” in the late ’90s who faces her own obsolescence in 2010s San Francisco. It is fundamentally about how we manage change, and the change our world has experienced since this story’s inception only makes Edie and her travails more relevant to the moment. Join a chat about Lisick’s self-described “crabby bartender,” her myopia and troubled awakening, and the challenges of maintaining sanity as the pillars of your ego crumble. Lisick, co-founder of the Porchlight Storytelling Series, a wickedly entertaining live event that’s lit up SF and other cities for 18 years, breathes new life into some of the city’s best lost niches, characters, and scenes.

Episode 126: International Literature

What can international literature teach us about our collective past, present and future in these chaotic times? In the latest GrottoPod Gabfest, producer and Grotto fellow Rita Chang-Eppig talks to Jesus Francisco Sierra, Mathangi Subramanian and Olga Zilberbourg about the appeal of international literature, its necessity in our increasingly connected world, and our favorite authors and books, including Akram Aylisli’s Farewell, Aylis! (translated by Katherine E. Young), Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman, Wendy Guerra’s Revolution Sunday (translated by Achy Obejas), and Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge (translated by Stephen Snyder). 

Over the course of the conversation, our guests briefly touched on a number of other books, including:

  • Look at Him by Anna Starobinets, translated by Katherine E. Young
  • A Life at Noon by Talasbek Asemkulov, translated by Shelley Fairweather-Vega  
  • The Gypsy GoddessWhen I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife, and Exquisite Cadavers, all by Meena Kandasamy.
  • Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag
  • My Life in Trans Activism and The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story by A. Revathi
  • Women Without Men by Sharhnush Parsipur
  • Leonardo Padura: The Man Who Loved DogsHeretics, Havana Gold, Havana Black, Havana BlueHavana Red
  • Guillermo Cabrera Infante: Infante’s Inferno, Three Trapped Tigers
  • Roberto Bolano: By Night In Chile, The Third ReichAmulet, The Skating Rink

Celebrate International Day of the Book (April 23) by dipping into some of these titles!

Episode 122: Writing Memoir, Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Want to learn how to shape experience—or explore whole new worlds? Fact and fiction commingle and collide in today’s episode, the third of our special podcasts about a new series of books from the Writers Grotto called Lit Starts. Each book is filled with prompts to help writers practice their craft. The first four covered character, dialogue, action, and humor; the two newest take on memoir and science fiction/fantasy. Each book also features a foreword by a Grotto writer. Today’s podcast is devoted to a conversation between two of those writers. Julie Lythcott-Haims, who wrote the foreword to Writing Memoirand Dorothy Hearst, who wrote the foreword to Writing Sci-Fi & FantasyLythcott-Haims is the author of two books, including the critically-acclaimed and award-winning prose poetry memoir Real American, which illustrates her experience with racism and her journey toward self-acceptance. Hearst is the author of The Wolf Chronicles trilogy as well as other novels.

Episode 121: Dystopian Visions

Gender wars, pandemics, and, of course, workaday clones: is it the daily news, or our shared future? In the latest GrottoPod Gabfest, co-producers Susan Gerhard, Daniel Pearce and Beth Winegarner plus special guest Andrew Braithwaite take on dark visions, with four of our favorite dystopian novels under discussion: Meg Elison’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Naomi Alderman’s The Power, and Ling Ma’s Severance.

Episode 117: Michael Frank in conversation with Lindsey Crittenden

Michael Frank

Michael Frank is the author of the memoir The Mighty Franks, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection that was named one of the best books of 2017 by The Telegraph and The New Statesman and won the 2018 JQ Wingate PrizeIn October, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published What Is Missinghis first novel. In this episode of the GrottoPod, Frank chats with author and Grotto instructor Lindsey Crittenden about What Is Missing, which The New Yorker has described as “a penetrating examination of how a life can be defined by contingency and surprise.” The two writers and friends also discuss the roles they have played as early and trusted readers of each other’s work.

Episode 116: The Delights of Writing Historical Fiction

Writer Lucy Jane Bledsoe, whose new novel is Running Wild, interviews fellow authors Pam Berkman and Dorothy Hearst. Berkman and Hearst’s new children’s book is Filigree’s Midnight Ride, the first entry in a series about, as Berkman says, “turning points in history, particularly American history, from the point of view of a dog who was there.” Filigree’s Midnight Ride tells the story of Paul Revere’s ride, and of a Pomeranian, Filigree, who assumes that he can’t help Revere because of his small size.

In this lively discussion, the writers discuss the differences between writing for children and writing for adults, the challenges and delights of writing historical fiction, and the dynamics of co-authorship and collaboration.

Episode 114: Spooky Reads for Halloween

What’s scarier: an abusive father imposing the re-enactment of an iron-age human-sacrifice ritual on his teenage daughter, an idealistic young man imprisoned and brutalized for a crime he clearly did not commit, a cast of characters adrift in a genuinely haunted house, or the political history of the United States? This week’s GrottoPod takes a look at four books that touch on these skin-crawling topics. They are Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and These Truths by Jill Lepore. GrottoPod hosts and producers Beth Winegarner, George Higgins, Daniel Pearce, and Ben Marks each present a book, and at the end the show, the group votes on their favorite. With apologies to the language of clickbait, the results may shock you!